New, yet Victorian, views of sex on college campuses have led to a return to the days when men were the ultimate protectors of women. This view says that women who drink cannot be held accountable for their actions, and are to be viewed as victims. Men who drink, meanwhile, are to be held accountable for their actions (and the actions of the women around them), and are to be viewed as perpetrators.
Now comes a story out of California, in which a male student (referred to in court documents as John Doe) was expelled for consensual sex because the accuser did not like what other men involved in the group sexual activity did to her. The University of Southern California determined Doe was somehow responsible for preventing and stopping what the other men did, even though his accuser gave no indication she didn't like the contact. When she finally did show displeasure with the activities, by all accounts, Doe immediately stopped engaging in sexual contact with her and left.
Even stranger, Doe was found in violation for sexual assault because he allegedly left his accuser after the sexual activity, which may have endangered her. So here a student is being branded a rapist because he didn't sufficiently protect a woman from other people or from what could have happened after the sexual activity.
Doe, a member of the USC football team, and his accuser met at a fraternity party in January 2013. Two friends of Doe's teammate also attended the party. Doe and his accuser began to dance during the party, and one of the teammate's friends joined them. The three went into a bedroom together and had a group sexual encounter. The accuser told her friends about what she had done with Doe.
Doe and his accuser returned to the room 45 minutes later. There were other people in the room and people kept entering and leaving. The accuser said she performed oral sex on Doe. Someone else came into the room — apparently the same person who had engaged in the group sex earlier — and began to have sex with the accuser.
She said later that she didn't like this, but at the time said nothing and did nothing to indicate that she was uncomfortable. While California law states that silence is not an indication of consent, the judge overseeing Doe's lawsuit believes it is relevant to when Doe knew something was wrong with his accuser and how he knew it. The second student from before eventually slapped the accuser on her buttocks. Another student came in the room and did the same.
The accuser started crying. When Doe noticed this he jumped off the bed, got dressed and left. The accuser said she went to the bathroom and then left the room, where her friends saw her crying.
The accuser didn't report the incident until August 2013, seven months after the encounter. As has become common in campus sexual assault accusations, the accuser didn't appear to believe she was a victim until someone put the idea into her head. The accuser's athletic coach suggested in mid-February that she had confidence issues, and directed her to speak with an athletics counselor. The counselor asked the accuser if she had ever been sexually assaulted (meaning the accuser didn't bring this up, the idea was planted into her head). It was at that point that the accuser said "it dawned on me and I connected it."
Still, even though she now believed she was the victim of a sexual assault, she didn't report it to the school until months later. The school accused Doe of violating 11 sections of the Student Conduct Code but didn't give him the details of what behavior he had engaged in that violated each section.
The accuser's first couple of interviews with school administrators didn't mention that she had been slapped on the buttocks. It wasn't until her third interview that she even mentioned it. Also, just one witness claimed to have seen Doe leave the room before the other two students (this will be important in a minute), other witnesses said the three men left together.
The accuser maintained that the sex with Doe was consensual, but the actions of the other men were not.
Doe was suspended for more than two years. Not only that, but USC had originally found Doe responsible for violating nine of the 11 student code violations of which he was initially accused, essentially saying he sexually assaulted the accuser even though she said the sex between them was consensual. After appealing, Doe was cleared of seven of the nine violations, but maintained that he was responsible for the actions of the other men. His suspension was reduced to one year.
Associate Justice Audrey Collins and her colleagues in the California Court of Appeals agree with Doe that the school's process was unfair, in part because he was never informed what actions he did that connected to the student code violations. The judges ruled that Doe "was never provided notice or an opportunity to respond to the theory that his actions in relationship to the other students' slaps, separated from the remaining activity, could result in his suspension." In other words, Doe was not aware that he could be held responsible and branded a rapist for things other people did.
Further, the judges ruled, school investigators never suggested to Doe that they were investigating him for the actions of others, just that they were investigating whether the sex with the accuser was consensual. And the accuser didn't even mention the slaps until her third interview, meaning the actions of the other students couldn't have been the basis of the investigation against Doe.
USC also based its belief that Doe endangered his accuser because, according to a single witness, Doe left the accuser in the room with the other two men, which could have been dangerous. Other witnesses said the men left together, but USC chose to believe the one witness who provided information different from everyone else in order to find Doe responsible.
Doe's lawsuit alleges that USC initially suspended him under the theory that he sexually assaulted his accuser, but the appeals board used a different theory — that he was responsible for the actions of others — to suspend Doe.
Judge Collins agreed, and set aside part of USC's decision and will allow the case to go to the trial court.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.